What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

Archive for the category “Trades unions”

THIS IS NOT AN ACT OF GOD

We went to the fabulous wedding of our friends Lisa and David over the weekend, set in Bedwellty, South Wales it was a truly joyous occasion, as watching two people you know should be together publicly declare their love should be. The welcome for the English contingent was warm and generous, the church service not only solemn, but great fun. The only spot of bother would predictably be the weather.

The rain simply would not let up over the valleys – at times it was a struggle to see a landmark as close and as large as The Chartist Bridge. We were all incredibly lucky of course – all we had to put up with was a little dampness and wind, rather than flooded homes and workplaces, so there will be no grousing from me. Travelling back along the M4 on Sunday, you could see a little of the damage done – burst river banks and flooded pastures mainly. The news told the rest, or nearly all of it…

…The government, and the media have, as usual praised the unstinting efforts of local councils and the emergency services in the struggle to save life and property. Much has been made of the improvements in emergency planning made over the past few years, and rightly so, given the parsimony of the Coalitions’ austerity spending plans. Yet with floods, the main emergency workers who bust a gut are the Fire Service – the ones with hoses, pumps, ladders etc. Yes, that means members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

The cuts have hit Firefighters across the UK, and the South West has been no exception to this. So far, everything has worked pretty well, mainly thanks to teamwork and professionalism, yet post-2010 cut mean that Firefighters at all levels have serious concerns as to whether in the future they won’t be overstretched. The only reason that people in the South West have been able to rely on the Fire service because extra engines and Firefighters have been available from other regions. Should there be a wider flooding crisis in these other regions, this will not be the case. As the Association of Chief Fire Officers has already warned, future cuts, leading to the potential loss of 4,000 Firefighters, sixty stations and around 150 engines make such sharing of force much more difficult, especially if the UK were to have to deal with two regional crises at the same time.

Today Matt Wrack, the FBU leader has written to David Cameron, once again highlighting the Firefighters concerns. I doubt that Ham-Face will take any notice. After all, he leads a party that once counted  Brian Coleman as a leading member in London. You remember Brian – he said that “we need to break the FBU, frankly…” , as if this would make up for cutting numbers of staff and engines in London.

I am sure that the cabinet are all distressed about the floods – after all no one could be more distraught at having to dehumidify their holiday homes. No doubt these blustering puppets will heap praise upon the Fire Service until the waters subside, then get back to cutting numbers and buggering up their pensions. Of course, once the FBU start to campain over this in earnest, they will be branded extremists and wreckers by this extremist, wrecking coalition.   

 

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Labour Uncut Post – In Defence Of The BBC…

The previous post, about working conditions, was pretty well received, however my next effort gained me my first ever  cyber insult. Yes readers, if you defend the BBC, you must want sex with young girls (sigh)…

 

labour-uncut.co.uk/2012/10/26/governments-of-every-stripe-want-to-tear-down-the-bbc-don’t-let-them/

Labour Uncut Post – Why Labour Has To Win In 2012

This was published back on the nineteenth of October, and written after a long, hard shift at work. Please follow the link below:

labour-uncut.co.uk/2012/10/19/why-labour-has-to-win-in-2015

Mcluskey Balls…

Well, day two of  Labour Conference ( after Labour Womens Conference yesterday), and we have our first official spat, between UNITE union leader Len Mcluskey, and Ed “not THAT Ed” Balls…

To be fair, Mr Mcluskey was supporting a compromise motion, merely “noting” disagreement with Ed Balls’ policy of pay restraint in the public sector, in defence of public sector jobs. In a sense, this is what union leaders are for – defending conditions, pay AND jobs, so it is hardly surprising that “Red Len” made this speech, and in the interests of debate, it was right for him, on behalf of his members, to do so. 

I suspect that Rob Marchant over at The Centre Left blog will disagree, in reasonable language, and then once again propose a divorce between Labour and the unions, in the interest of progress (or is that Progress?). Coupled with his interview in the Sunday Times, Mr Mcluskey has declared war on the right wing of Labour, and in particular the blairite organisation Progress and its supporters. Are they “cuckoos in the nest” of the Labour Party, as he asserts, or are they a legit part of our movement?  My feeling is that Mcluskey has some valid points, but that declaring war will do much more harm than good.

You see, many of those “cuckoos” are exactly the people who stayed with the party through thick and thin. Like Mcluskey, they didn’t leave over Iraq, the elder statesmen of the right fought elections and the SDP splits of the 1980s, they have shown the sort of loyalty to the party that should be commended. Politically, I have huge problems with many of their ideas, certainly with the way that Progress is funded, and its influence at the higher level of internal politics. But critics of Progress need to understand that these people have put in the hours, and taken the knocks that working for a political party year in year out brings.

Mcluskey’s true beefs with the Progress crowd, that they are ultimately against the union link, that they want to carry-on with the failed New Labour policies that ignored the needs of working people, and failed to combat increasing inequality, have a certain ring of truth about them. The tactics that Mcluskey is using however, only play into the hands of our Tory supporting press. And as for saying that your criticism is only of ed Balls, and not Miliband, well, that is not going to hold, is it? To my mind, Balls is probably right on pay restraint in general, although there are strong arguments for protecting and increasing the pay of the low paid…

And what of Ed B’s big speech today, straight after Mcluskey’s criticism? Would he fall into the trap of responding directly? Would we see a return to some level of infighting? Well, Ed is too long in the tooth to fall into that trap at least…

Ed gave us a comprehensive and engaging demolition of Coalition economic policy, and lack thereof. Coupled with the now usual stress on our unity, and, unlike the Liberal Democrats, it seems that Labour politicians actually can make funny one-liners… 

” If David Cameron’s butch, where does that leave George Osborne?”

I’m Proud of The BBC – Are Labour???

Back in 2010, Mitch Benn – a comedian and songwriter of nearly godlike genius if you ask me, had his biggest hit so far with “I’m Proud of the BBC”, extolling the very real benefits that we all gain from auntie.  Newsround, Newsnight, iPlayer website – the list went on and on. And it hit a chord with listeners and viewers across the nation.

Well, we’ll know what we had if we lose it. The recent reshuffle was nothing more than another stacking of the deck against public service broadcasting as we know it. True, Mr C has moved on, but the tune remains the same – beggar the Beeb, and give a helping hand to Fox – sorry, Sky News.

Does it matter? Well yes it does. Every Government since Harold Wilson has accused the BBC of bias against them, and many have threatened to emasculate the corporation. As part of the fall out of the Hutton Inquiry, the last Labour government may just have started the process. However it was not irreversible, and we are now in a much more dangerous situation.

After all of ten minutes thought, The Coalition decided to cut funding via a freezing of the Licence Fee, then to stop funding The World Service via the Foreign Office. Yes, our Government took one ;look at our greatest soft power asset and said ” fuck it”. And fuck it they have.

As jobs are lost across the corporation, Unions are leading a campaign to stop the cuts – UNITE, BECTU, EQUITY and others, posing an alternative to the cuts – savings on top salaries, and a proper, forward looking policy.

 So where are the Labour MPs? Who is standing up for one of our great national institutions? One that unites us all much more than lousy weather, class snobbery and football? They, shamefully, seem as quiet as the grave, and I call that an outrage of the first order.

 Maybe it is simply an unwillingness to talk about shared culture, or to sound anti- big business. Maybe this is some kind of twisted revenge for Paxman, The Today Programme and trying to be unbiased in its foreign coverage. I don’ honestly know, and if these are the reasons, it must stop now.

Just look at the people throwing mud at the BBC – The Daily Mail, Express, Murdoch, the Tory right and any weirdo who read Ayn Rand and never grew up…

Carlton TV gave us David Cameron, whereas the BBC has given us:

Round The Horne, Miranda, Who Do You Think You Are? The day To Day, Nigella, Panorama and Bagpuss, I Claudius, Absolutely Fabulous!

Sherlock, Fireman Sam, Bruce Forsyth and The League of Gentlemen, The Thick of It, Jeremy Hardy Final Score, everything on BBC Four…

And something that can never be replaced – Sarah Jane Smith – did I mention Doctor Who? 

 

 

apologies to Mitch Benn, hope he doesn’t mind…

 

 

” …COME IN G – GEORGE, COME IN G – GEORGE…”

…Or how to be an Old Labour romantic…

I always shed a tear when the young Kim Hunter falls desperately, hopelessly in love with David Niven in Powell and Pressbergers’ “A Matter of Life and Death”. Perhaps my love of melodrama gets the better of me, or the nostalgia for a time I never new. Maybe it is just Powell and Pressberger, after all, the ending of “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp” gets me the same way. Perhaps it is Jack Cardiff – the “colour merchant” who shot these two masterpieces, and many more.

I suspect that it is more than this, as when David Niven says that he is “Conservative by instinct, Labour by experience” that is the moment that I well up…

..I can’t help it, you see I am one of that lost tribe, the Old Labour Romantics. I suppose that being politically awoken by the Miners’ Strike and Billy “Between the Wars” Bragg doesn’t help, but that is just what I am. I must confess my sin, that I look back upon the history of our Party and Movement, and my heroes are the Major, Hardie, Maxton, Lansbury. They are the Cooks – both Robin and A J, Bevin and Bevan. They are John Smith and Kinnock, Foot and Mikardo, and hundreds of others that fought the good fight. The unsung as well as the famous, those who fought and negotiated, who put our people first, who had a sense of what was right, a sense of decency.

Bill Morris, Len Murray, Jack Jones, Manny Shinwell and a host of others who did what they thought right, and never wavered in the tasks before them.

The phrase “Old Labour Romantic” has been used to describe that great journalist and biographer Francis Beckett. I suppose that it corresponds to anyone who sees the future of this country as being in the creation of a more tolerant, open, and equal society.

I am working to make the future Red, but maybe, just maybe my heaven is in black and white…

Boris’ Best Mates – Number One: BRIAN COLEMAN

 Londoners will be pretty familiar (and pretty fed-up) with Brian Coleman, the Barnet Councillor, ex- Mayor and London Assembly Member for Barnet & Camden, at least until next week. We are used to his habitual rudeness to members of the public, and his total disregard for anyone who disagrees with him. His casual insults are legend.

Now we all know that in politics, as in life, choosing your friends is an important indicator of your character, perhaps as important as your actions. In all honesty we in Labour have our reservations as to some of Ken’s allies, and most of us are pretty open about this, so maybe we should just take a peek at one of Mr Johnson’s closest political allies…

Mr Johnson put Mr Coleman in charge of the London Fire Brigade and Emergency Planning, taking Mr Coleman’s salary to over £120,000 per year, meaning he is one of the five top payed councillors in Britain. Yesterday he gave us an insight into why Johnson so values his services, when his attitude towards the Firefighters he bosses about, and their elected representatives was reported in an interview to be thus:

Most of the Union officials, if they had half a brain cell, they’d be dangerous… We have to break the FBU frankly… 

He also confirmed that there would “inevitably” be job losses, confirming that 27 fire engines, that is 16% of London’s total, could be cut. This is in direct contradiction to  Mr Johnson’s claims.

Let us take a moment to inspect this man’s record, after all, should Boris Johnson win on May 3rd, he will be a key player in the running of London:

Between April 2006 and March 2007, Coleman spent £10,000 on taxi fares. The average taxi spend of all GLA members for this period was £845. Granted, during this time, Brian was banned from driving for speeding, but has he never heard of the Oystercard?

In 2009, in the wake of the national expenses scandal, he was the only Assembly Member to refuse to voluntarily publish his expenses:

I won’t do it voluntarily. Its none of the publics business

Despite a salary of £128,000, Mr Coleman lives in a subsidised Housing Association flat, with a monthly rent of just £546. His landlord is the  Finchley Methodist Church charity. Lucky him. Recently, a single mother, faced with an increase on her rent of £150, taking her monthly rent to £1,100 contacted Mr Coleman see if he could in any way help. His answer, which speaks volumes, was thus:

…live in the real world…

Like many in the Boris camp, he really hates criticism, and just this week it was reported in The Barnet Times that he had called Friern Barnet resident & Psychiatric Nurse Paul Merchant a “twat”, then urged this voter to “clear off out” of a packed public meeting at Hendon Town Hall.

This is the third such incident in the past twelve months alone.

On May 3rd, this man is standing once again as GLA Member of Barnet and Camden. His Labour opponent, ex-local MP Andrew Dismore needs only a 5.5% swing to oust him. Time to eject this pompous, arrogant man from the Assembly chamber I think.

If, like me, you would also like to see this odious creep banished from City Hall, then best you vote for Ken Livingstone as well.

ED,WHAT ARE YOU THINKING????

Much toss is being written and spoken about Maurice Glassman’s  “Blue Labour” witterings, and he seems to have Ed’s ear at the moment…

Clem is all for a bit of Labour nostalgia – how could I not be? Just look at the site name. But Glassman has made some pretty fundamental errors in his analisys of pre-1945 Labour, and has also made a very stupid error in political judgement…

Last year, it was all about the “Red Tory”- Philip Blond’s supposed re-jigging of One-Nation Toryism. I see very little of this in evidence as The Coalition rips the heart from the NHS, attacks minorities and pursues its Monetarist economic agenda with uncommon zeal.

Glassmans response – under the title “Blue Labour” looks for all the world like nothing so much as a pale imitation of failed Policy-Wonkage on the right – never a good move. In fact, it looks suspiciously similar to “The Project” launched in the early nineties by Mandleson, Blair and Brown, now thankfully over, or so we thought…

In truth, the “statism” that Glassman attributes to the 1945 Labour Government was far more complex and subtle than he portrays. And the “golden age” he finds before this date includes most of the major figures of Labours greatest Government. To whit:

” Given the choice between Liberty and Equality, I would choose Liberty every time.” – Ernest Bevin, a major figure in the TUC who pressed for support of the Spanish Republican Government, whilst fighting against stalinist influence withing the TGWU and wider Labour Movement.

Herbert Morrison – as Labour Leader of the London County Council, oversaw the great slum clearances of the 1930s improving Londoners lives for the better, working with Local Authorities, and often in the teeth of Central Government opposition. As a Labour minister, worked with Nye Bevan to create the NHS, which was initially modeled on  locally accountable provision for local needs – Bevan’s ideas for its growth envisaged the Health Centre at the heart of the community, and Community Health Councils – an extension of Municipal Socialism.

Major Attlees own brand of Socialism, rooted in his experiences in the East End and influenced by the Guild school of thought was also deeply patriotic – this man took  Turkish Bullet for goodness sake!  And was one of the two last men off the beach at Suvla Bay.The mainstream of Labour opinion has never, unlike the far Left, been unpatriotic – without Attlee in 1940, Churchill may never have become Leader. Without Bevin, there may very well have been no Attlee. Attlees own conservatism on constitutional issues may be decried now, but you cannot deny his love of Crown and Country, as unaffected and honest as Churchills.

To the end of his days, even an “inveterate peace monger” such as Micheal Foot remained intensely patriotic, and in 1982 his speech calling for war with fascist Argentina was declared the best in the debate – unsurprising from the author of “The Guilty Men” really…

In reality, the 1945 Government had to use the means at its disposal in very tough times to rebuild Britain. The war left us broke and devastated. The economy was already pretty much centrally controlled, and had been for six years, out of necessity. In most legislation in the social sphere, although centrally planned, services were planned to be locally administered and accountable. And it is difficult to question the patriotism of a Government that stood up to Stalin, developed a nuclear deterrent, helped form NATO, fought communism in Greece and Korea, whilst overseeing a massive retreat from Empire, with little help, if any, from our allies, the USA. 

Oh, and there was a Royal Wedding too…

So lets have no more jabber about “Blue Labour”, instead let us revive something that “informed opinion” has long derided – Red Patriotism.

 

WHY I AM VOTING YES TO AV

In two weeks time, we get the first chance to fundamentally change our political system since universal adult suffrage was achieved in the 1940s – when domestic servants were enfranchised, and Oxbridge types lost their two votes.

I have already said that given the two choices on offer, I back AV over no change, and as the campaigns draw to a close, it is time to re-state my reasons…

Firstly, as some opponents of AV have already commented elsewhere, First Past The Post is manifestly undemocratic. Most governments do not represent will of the people by votes cast, let alone the total electorate. In the 1980s, taking the whole electorate, The Tories won no more than 36% of possible votes at any election. The same applies to New Labour, and to this Coalition. Only 217 out of 650 MPs returned in 2010 had over 50% of the vote.

Secondly, the great, and largely ignored seat theft that this Government is perpetrating against you and I. Regardless of how we vote in the Referendum, 50 seats will be axed, at a stroke making our established political class stronger, and also more distant from us. The only measure within our power right now to even slightly ameliorate this would be to make sure that every MP needed at least 50% of the votes cast in their constituency. That would be AV.

Thirdly, if passed, AV would give impetus to Lords Reform – lets kick the unelected into touch.

AV is just a start, and we could further modify the system to create a more proportional one after the barriers to reform come down.

AV is no block to radical reform – it is radical reform.

Look at those who back the current system – Press Barons, The Tax Payers Alliance (led by a non-dom), and Tories, with conservative New Labourites and a smattering of Blairites.

I would like to see a system where every MP has to reach out beyond the usual middle class middle ground of voters – with AV, not only second preferences but voter registration and participation become key.

I urge you all to think hard about this – we need a better way, and a better Government.

Getting Rid of Gaddafi – How do We Help???

After the horrible scenes we see daily on the news, it is finally clear that the madman is not going without a fight. Unlike Mubarrak, who is under army guard in his villa, Gaddafi has nowhere to run, and is now proving in deeds what his son broadcast in those terrible words.  It looks as if he will do what Saddam said he would, and fight to the last. Unlike Saddam however, he has the means and the fanatical support of some to do this.Ninety British subjects in Libya are trapped with around three hundred other foreign nationals in a camp too far from Tripoli to get out, with no transport, and decreasing supplies. At the very least these people need a rescue mission as soon as possible. Even The Times is calling (rightly) for the freezing of the Gaddafi family assets here in London, although no one is talking about redistribution to rebuild a shattered nation.

Around the Western World, in Boardrooms and the corridors of power, there must be a whole bunch of nervous people, not least Silvio Berlusconi and the Italian elite – lets not forget Italian investment in Libya, nor Libyan investment in FIAT. Government ministers here in Britain, from every Government since 1992 are no-doubt worried as to what may come out as to dodgy deals over getting Shell and BP concessions, including the Al-Megrahni affair, and the cosying-up to Gadaffi since the end of the 1991 Iraq War.

Yet behind the headlines, what can, indeed what should we in the west be doing?

  1. Much as I hate to agree with David Owen, a no-fly zone can be established by NATO forces over Libya. This needs to be U.N. sanctioned, and my suspicion is that neither China nor Russia will agree. Nonetheless we must try. Once applied in Bosnia and Iraq, no-fly zones prevented, or at least lessened the slaughter.
  2. Hit tyrants where it really hurts – in the pocket. Freeze their assets right now.
  3. Mount a rescue operation for the trapped workers too far from Tripoli. This is not impossible, nor impractical, as the operation could be mounted from NATO bases in Southern Italy. If Israel could rescue hostages from Entebbe in Uganda, surely we could do the same now.
  4. Demonstrate outside the Libyan Embassy – as ordinary citizens, show our support for freedom.
  5. Stop emasculating The World Service. Increasingly, we see the shutting-down of the internet and international TV broadcasts as a tool of repression. This that the good old short-wave World Service can be the ONLY reliable and trusted source of news. The cuts being made now are simply madness.
  6. Support Refugee and Dissident groups. Instead of shutting down these centres, like Hammersmith and Fulham Council, now is the time to engage and nurture them.
  7. Support democratic organisations in the regions. Civil groups, Trades Unions, feminists, democratic political parties need money and support right now. Show solidarity wherever and whenever you can.

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